Friday, 8 July 2011

George Thomas HOWELL, Missionary

George was born in Bermondsey on 12 June 1870 and as a child was educated by the London School Board. He was a scholarly lad and won many prizes. At the age of 11 he attended the Sunday School at the East London Tabernacle and it was this which set him on his path in life. He became a teacher and developed an interest in missionary work. At the age of 21 he joined the China Inland Mission and was chosen to represent the Missionary Union of the Christian Police Association. George was engaged to be married to Grace Selby Brown the second daughter of the Revd. Archibald Brown. Grace was also training to become a missionary. On 25 November 1892 George set forth on the SS Sutlej on the voyage to China, hoping that his fiancé would be able to join him in the not too distant future. In this and the next couple of blogs I will bring you something of his journey for it will be similar to voyages made by all those who travelled East.

After the last farewells had been said and father and all the friends who had come down to Tilbury with us had returned home the band of seven Missionaries (myself among the number) met in the largest of our cabins and commended our loved ones left behind. ………………

Passing out of Tilbury the scene as night came on and we got out into the open sea was indeed a grand one. The magnificent lighthouses and ships that surround our English coasts and tell of “Hidden rock and treacherous sands” began to send forth their bright rays and flash their warning signals. The sea was very calm and our first night afloat was a pleasant one.

After a good night’s rest we were glad to find, on going on deck in the morning that the old country was still in sight. With the aid of Mr. Green’s glasses splendid views of Bonchurch and Ventnor were obtained and also of vessels passing up & down the channel. At 4.30 I got my last glimpse of dear old England which we were rapidly leaving behind and as night came on our eyes were directed towards the point which marks the entrance to the famous Bay of Biscay – Ushant. We remained on deck until the light on the headland came in sight and then retired for the night.

We awoke on Saturday morning to find ourselves being pitched backwards and forwards in a way which made dressing an extremely difficult operation, and this combined with the uncomfortable sensation within was far from pleasant.

Fortunately, it appears that George found his sea legs quite quickly for he goes on to record:

On Saturday we shipped a great deal of water, several seas coming right on to the hurricane deck and the main deck oft-times being flooded the ship pitching about in a decidedly uncomfortable way, which however we (Preedy and I) rather enjoyed when our sickness was over.

December 1st.
Going on deck this morning revealed to us that we were off the north-east of Africa on the one side and Spain on the other and making for Gibraltar. All eyes were turned to the direction of the mighty Rock we expected soon to see and about 9 o’clock it came in sight, looming through a thick mist which was soon dispelled by the rising sun. At 10.15 we anchored in the beautiful harbour side by side with the great liner of the P & O Co “Victoria” which arrived at the same time on her homeward voyage. ………..

It was difficult, as we wandered along under a hot sun, with geraniums on every side and oranges hanging on the trees in rich clusters, to realise that it was the first of December and that at home rain and fog were the order of the day.

George and his friends only had a couple of hours ashore and at 2pm they were back on board as the ship weighed anchor.

We were soon steaming down the Mediterranean leaving the huge fortress, 1,400 feet high and bristling with British guns, in the distance. This afternoon we witnessed the most glorious sunset conceivable. Standing on the deck of the ship we watched “Old Sol” sink behind the hills of Africa leaving as it did so such a blaze of golden light and tinting the horizon where earth and sky seemed to meet and lose themselves in each other with wondrous colours and making a picture of matchless beauty and one worth travelling any distance to behold.

Oh dear, I think I am going to have to end here otherwise I will be on the internet booking another cruise for myself !! It is EXACTLY how George describes it - a very magical experience. I will return in a few days with a bit more of George’s voyage to the Orient back in 1892.